Club aims to build on its wide range of charity work
AFC Wimbledon celebrated another significant development in its exciting story by launching the club’s charitable foundation at Wimbledon Film Studios recently.
.Charity LaunchThe important event for the club received press attention in the Wimbledon Guardian and this write-up can be viewed by clicking on
Our picture above (taken by Zoe Linkson) shows Outreach Worker Andy O’Brien introducing Warren Palmer (centre) and Marie Miller (left) from the High Path Community Resource Centre to the audience. Foundation patrons Alun Armstrong and Sophie Hosking are featured on stage in our gallery of photographs, along with other images from the event.
A more comprehensive article appeared in Saturday’s Bristol Rovers programme and this is reproduced below.
The AFC Wimbledon Foundation, which was formed last year, was formally launched on the evening of Thursday, 27 March. This charitable foundation will enable the club to bring its many community projects under one roof. And it was appropriate that the launch took place in the club’s traditional community of Wimbledon.
Actor Alun Armstrong and Olympic gold medal winner Sophie Hosking – both long-time Wimbledon supporters – attended in their roles as patrons of the Foundation, and they paid tribute to the club’s community work. Since the formation of AFC Wimbledon in 2002, the club has always sought to deliver a broad range of community projects.
Examples are the club’s involvement with High Path Community Resource Centre in South Wimbledon, and with the Street League Academy. Both these community groups were also present at the launch, along with Neal Ardley, Neil Cox, Chief Executive Erik Samuelson, club officials, local councillors and volunteers who have helped implement the club’s work off the pitch.
The formation of the Foundation aims to build on the success of all the community work that the club has undertaken since 2002. With Kay Skelton now appointed as executive director to spearhead the Foundation, AFC Wimbledon will strive to increase its community work still further.
Alun Armstrong, who starred in BBC drama New Tricks, introduced the evening with a passionate speech about AFC Wimbledon.
“The list of community activities undertaken by AFC Wimbledon is varied and I was staggered by how long this list is,” Alun said. “We hope to extend this further in the coming years. It is an aspect of the club that is dear to my heart. My three boys went to school in Wandsworth and I took them to Plough Lane to see Wimbledon play. It was a fantastic atmosphere at the ground.
“I was on the Parent Teachers’ Association at my children’s school and every year I was asked to get a celebrity to open the summer fair. One year I had an acting friend lined up, but he had to pull-out because he got a job abroad. I telephoned Wimbledon FC - and to my surprise and delight they sent us Carlton Fairweather to open the fair. He was a great ambassador for the club, and it was the biggest crowd that we ever had for a summer fair.
“I am a Wimbledon fan who has watched the extraordinary story of AFC Wimbledon unfold, with the club getting back into the Football League in just nine years. I am delighted to be here tonight introducing the next major chapter in this story. AFC Wimbledon is unlike many other professional clubs because it’s totally owned by its supporters. Not only are we committed to our community, we are owned by our community.”
Since its formation, the club has strived to implement an extensive range of community activities addressing important issues in education, health, social inclusion and unemployment for people of all ages in Merton, Wandsworth and Kingston.
Last year more than 300 people associated with the club were involved in organising and delivering a wide range of events and programmes. The majority of these were unpaid volunteers, and the activities collectively comprised over 900 hours of community engagement.
For many years, AFC Wimbledon has worked with High Path Community Resource Centre in South Wimbledon, a day centre that helps people with learning disabilities.
Andy O’Brien, Outreach Worker at High Path, regularly brings people from the centre to AFC Wimbledon games and the group’s activities has involved creating flags at matches and even forming a band that performed the “We Are Wimbledon” song for the crowd.
Marie Miller and Warren Palmer both attend High Path and they have taken part in half-time challenges for Sport Relief at AFC Wimbledon matches with the assistance of community volunteer Clive Yelf. They were presented to around 70 guests at the launch on Thursday.
Andy said: “The relationship that we have with AFC Wimbledon is superb. The confidence that our group at High Path has gained through these activities is there for all to see. That’s shown by Marie and Warren standing in front of you tonight. We have a group that have attended around 10-15 games a season, and the highlights have been the flag-making project and performing the Wimbledon song at half-time of the Burton match two years ago.”
A more recent AFC Wimbledon community initiative is a partnership with the Street League academy, a national organisation that seeks to provide opportunities for unemployed people between the ages of 16 and 25.
Street League Operations Manager Paul Evans said: “All across the UK we have used the power of football to change lives by tackling youth unemployment. About a year ago we were looking for football clubs that we could partner with to help people in the community and AFC Wimbledon fitted the bill.
“Students combine football and education in an eight-week course and we what we’ve achieved has been amazing. In the first AFC Wimbledon Academy, 20 out of 26 students moved into positive outcomes. That means into either jobs or further training and I think that’s incredible.”
Sophie Hosking MBE, who won a rowing gold medal at London 2012, played for Wimbledon Ladies FC before switching sports to great effect.
“I’m a firm believer in the benefits that sport can bring to the community,” Sophie said. “What AFC Wimbledon is trying to achieve in the community is fantastic. Sport can have a big impact on people’s lives and when I was young I dreamed of playing for Wimbledon in the Premier League!”
Deputy Mayor of Merton Council, John Sargeant, has been hugely impressed with AFC Wimbledon’s community work and he welcomed this latest development.
“This has been a fabulous night and we’ve already heard so many good stories about what AFC Wimbledon is doing to promote charities in the boroughs of Merton, Wandsworth and Kingston,” John said. “The club is now going to bring this work forward even further by forming this foundation. Football reaches out to people in a way that other sports cannot do.
“Wimbledon is a club that keeps coming back and it will not lie down, even though some people would rather have taken it away. In my opinion, the club is part of the DNA of the London borough of Merton.”